The Koori unit of the Victorian Coroner's court has recently travelled to north-west Victoria to talk to local Aboriginal leaders concerned about the prevalence of suicide.
By
Stephanie Corsetti

Source:
NITV News
21 Apr 2021 - 4:33 PM  UPDATED 21 Apr 2021 - 4:33 PM

The Coroner's court said that it was concerning that the frequency of suicides among the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population in Victoria was twice that of the non-Indigenous community. 

The court has reported Victoria had one of the highest rates of suicide for First Nations people in the country during 2020. 

Latji Latji man Stephan Gocol from the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service at Mildura said the March visit from the court's Koori unit involved a community discussion. 

"Educating people on suicide and then the flow-on effects of it, like the effect it has on the family, it would help deter it," Mr Gocol said.

He said many in the community use alcohol to cope and some of the suicides have had links to methamphetamine consumption. 

Mr Gocol said families have also argued about where the person should be buried if they have ties to multiple towns. 

"Each family handles it different." 

Mr Gocol says his 12-year-old son has started used concerning language about suicide.

"Personally for me, trying to manage that and take care of his mental health and his brother's mental health, it is very taxing," said Mr Gocol. 

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Mr Gocol lost his nephew in 2016 and brother-in-law in 2013, both to suicide, while one of his uncles has since developed an ice habit.

"My words have been keeping that uncle alive, whether that is sitting with him at the front of my house," he said.

"There are a lot of regrets that I have with my nephew... I was texting him two days before he committed suicide," Mr Gocol.  

Data from the Victorian Coroner's court into Aboriginal suicides showed 21 deaths were recorded in 2020 and the same figure in 2019. 

The frequency was higher for men than women, and higher in regional areas compared to city locations. 

Mr Gocol has suspected illicit substances and a lack of services played a part in past suicides.

"It's a combination of illict drugs and come downs so people are more emotional and tend to act out their feelings," he said. 

The court said the visit was part of a plan to build greater understanding and to talk directly to communities affected by the coronial process and "how best to embed culturally safe practices and support". 

A further report will be released by the Coroner's Court of Victoria in June. 

Readers seeking support can contact Lifeline crisis support on 13 11 14, visit lifeline.org.au or find an Aboriginal Medical Service here. Resources for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders can be found at Headspace: Yarn Safe.